‘Not fast food, good food’

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Family Tree Café offers a family atmosphere

After 20 years together, Nina and Brian Vail stepped out on a limb to bring their specially named gourmet family meals into an atmosphere that would hopefully connect the community by offering a family friendly environment for families with special needs.


Previous vendors at Dodd’s Market Antique and Thrift Store, the Vails are the proud owners of the Family Tree Café on South Main Street in Nicholasville. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the cafe is currently closed on Sunday.
Brian said he and his wife have always dreamed of owning a restaurant where families with children of special needs could feel comfortable dining. Both of their daughters, Keely, 13, and Kinsley, 7, have special needs. After losing a job he held for 10 1/2 years, and with limited finances, Brian and Nina opened their restaurant to the Jessamine County community.
Due to medical bills and depleting accounts, they weren’t able to advertise the restaurant or afford kitchen appliances other than what might be in a home kitchen, Brian said. This alone caused a slow start in the business.
With the help of friends like Brad Johnson, for which a bologna sandwich is named, and Jennifer Herrington, who started a GoFundMe page — $5,550 was raised to save the café. Brian said so much business has been pouring into the cafe, the Family Tree Café has been understaffed. They have asked for patience as they work through these kinks, Brian said. They just weren’t prepared for the restaurant to grow this fast.
Coach of the Bluegrass Miracle League, Johnson brags on the Vails.
“Amazing people. They are a blessing on top of good food,” Johnson said. He can be seen eating lunch at Family Tree Café nearly every day. “The food is so good my family was jealous I came for lunch without them so I had to bring them
for dinner.”
With meals priced less than $10, various sized kitchen tables and chairs fill the restaurant, giving it a home feel. Children group up to play games such as table corn hole and Jenga. Inspirational music faintly plays in the background.
Brian and Nina go from table to table interacting with patrons while they serve salads, cold and hot sandwiches, burgers, pies, cookies, dips and spreads and pound cakes.
“All the food is freshly prepared. Potatoes aren’t cut into French fries until the waitress brings the order to the kitchen,” Brian said. “If people want ‘fast food,’ this isn’t the place. We offer good food here.”
Brian explains the connection of members in his family to the names of meals. Meals are named after their children, themselves, siblings and parents.
Walking into Family Tree Café is entering their home, Brian said. It’s not uncommon to see Grandma at a table with Kinsley or Keeley eating her namesake pancakes. Receiving a 100 by the health department, Brian and Nina take pride in their restaurant. They laid a great foundation of love and concern for the community, and in return, they are seeing insurmountable growth, Brian said.